Vice President Kamala Harris visited facilities in Montclair and Newark, New Jersey last week, Friday, October 8, to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and the importance of child care. Perhaps the highlight of his trip was a little stopover with fellow Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Cory Booker at a crisp bakery called Tonnie’s Minis, whose owner used to call Harlem home before moving to Newark.
Tonnie’s Minis was located at 264 Lenox Avenue in Harlem when Amsterdam News ran an article about the bakery in 2012, store owner Tonnie Rozier said.
A baker since the age of 7, Rozier’s first store was a showcase in a Manhattan cheesesteak store before moving to the upscale Harlem neighborhoods. Her original recipes come from her family, her carrot cake being her mother’s. The best seller in the store is her pineapple coconut cake, Rozier said. The minis are available in three sizes: the shot, California and Hollywood.
Rozier and his chef Chaely Rodriguez eagerly awaited the arrival of Harris, Booker and Murphy behind the cramped counter and the display of glass cakes with a crowd of press and cameras.
The smell of absurdly delicious pastries greeted the chosen ones as they entered the store and was the first thing they commented on. âIt smells like the best of any New Jersey store, no matter Newark,â Murphy said.
Rozier explained that he communicated with Booker over the radio about 7 years ago, which prompted him to consider moving to Newark. âI was chatting over the phone on the radio show and his words were, ‘How awesome it would be to have a cupcake shop in Newark.’ Who knew? âRozier said to the crowd in the store.
Harris stopped by to talk to a young girl, Ulani, who does her homework in the store every day after school until her mother leaves work before ordering a slew of cakes to take home for her family.
âThe smell is just ridiculous, it’s so good,â said Harris, choosing his treats.
Of course, the tour wasn’t all about cupcakes and cream.
Harris and Murphy spent most of the morning with Congressman Mikie Sherrill, Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, greeting students and children’s classes.
They thanked various teachers and immunization workers for their efforts during the pandemic. Concerns about serious shortages of child care staff have arisen since Murphy announced that all workers at New Jersey day care centers must be fully immunized after November 1. Chalkbeat reported that advocates say many small daycares simply don’t have the funds to stay open and staffed if people choose not to be vaccinated.
In a private roundtable with parents and leaders from Montclair State University’s Ben Samuels Children’s Center, Harris spoke about the importance of federal investment in child care as part of the Biden administration‘s âBuild Back Betterâ plan.
âAnd I know firsthand how difficult childcare is in this country. But I can also tell you that it only got worse after the pandemic, âHarris said. âSo right now we are fighting to build an economic recovery and invest in access to affordable, high quality child care. “
Harris said she is working to address the challenges women face in the workforce, many of whom have had to give up their jobs due to childcare issues and school closings.
Harris also visited a vaccination site at Essex County College in Newark.
Newark was named one of New Jersey’s 16 least vaccinated cities in May with 38% of residents receiving at least one dose, Chalkbeat reported. Now it has made progress in fully immunizing adults, with around 56% having both vaccines in July, and has “nearly doubled” its youth vaccination rates in the past two months.
Members of the press were allowed to enter the room briefly for photos and presentations during the visits. There were no questions from the press before, during or after Harris’ tours.
Ariama C. Long is a member of the Report for America Corps and writes on New York City culture and politics for The Amsterdam News. Your matching donation to our RFA grant helps her continue to write stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w